Saturday, July 18, 2015

Ancestry Fails - The early military service of George Washington Smith

As most people who are reading this blog are probably aware, Ancestry has introduced a new feature called Timeline which seems to be meeting with mixed reviews. Even those who don't use Ancestry may have seen some posts about the issues some of us are having with it.  Yesterday I was checking on the date of the wedding anniversary of my maternal grandparents for an upcoming 80th anniversary post when I discovered that Ancestry timelines has made a complete mess of the facts on my grandfather's timeline. *From a discussion on this topic that I heard last week, I thought that this feature was now out of beta and had been rolled out to everyone, I was mistaken. When I was finished writing this post, I decided to email or otherwise contact Ancestry with my experiences and then discovered that I could opt-out and go back to the old view. I did so and also let Ancestry know why.*

For anyone who is not familiar, the timeline feature adds things to the facts you have already added for your ancestors. Some of them are taken from your tree, like the birth of a sibling for instance, and some from history, like the beginning of WWI. I like the concept. It takes gives context to the lives of our ancestors. But it has to be accurate to work and if it doesn't, it is rather annoying.

Exhibit A

Please click on the image to enlarge, if I do it, it comes off of the page.

George Washington Smith was my mother's father. He was born in Thetford Mines, Quebec in 1898 to George Robert and Isabella Frances Parker Smith. For a time they had also had a residence on the island of Montreal in the City of Westmount. This is where the family lived at the time of the 1911 Canadian census. Hochelaga was the district in Westmount. None of these places are in Quebec City. This error is made for everyone in the family.

Exhibit B


As you can see from the purple circle to the upper left of this screenshot, this "event" takes place on 14 August, 1914. Ancestry has titled this "Serving in the Canadian Military During the Great War." That was actually the date that the Canadian Parliament adopted the War Measures Act which declared war on Germany, although they were effectively at war with Germany ten days earlier when it was so declared by Great Britain. My grandfather was not serving in the military on that date, nor did her serve in 1898 as it says below the caption, because Canada was not at war and he was an infant. Ahhhh!!!

Exhibit C


So, this one Ancestry got right...or did they? While this is the date of his enlistment, my grandfather's service is treated like a one-day event.  He "served in the military on August 18, 1917." No, he enlisted on that day or he served starting on that date. Think I'm nitpicking? Take a look at Exhibit D.

Exhibit D


"As the Great War raged on, George Washington Smith was probably living in Canada,..." Well, no. See what happens when you treat service as a one day event?

I'm really not happy about this at all. Have you seen errors like this in your Ancestry tree?  It is definitely time for me to contact them and tell them that this feature needs to go back to beta!

And finally, since I am already in ranting mode, I have one more fact to tell you about.


This is my grandfather's brother, Herbert Austin Smith. He also served during the Great War and was taken prisoner by the Germans, spending the end of the war in a POW camp. And Mr. Trump, he was a hero.

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